A group of about 200 Haitians, some visibly angered and hurt, marched in front of the White House yesterday to protest disparity in President Carter's handling of Haitian and Cuban refugees.
Waving posters that read, "deportation means death," the Haitians held hands and sang their country's national anthem.
"For eight years, 13,000 Haitians have been knocking at America's doors," said Antoine Adrien, a Haitian priest from Brooklyn. "Within 10 days, 25,000 Cubans have arrived and have been granted everything. We simply cannot understand Mr. Carter."
Some Haitians viewed the difference in treatment as evidence of racism by the Carter administration and expressed bewilderment at the absence of black Americans at the Haitian protest.
"You can't blame black Americans," Adrien said. "I think it's a question of the media. Many blacks are just becoming aware of what is happening because we are not getting some coverage. If it hadn't been for the Cubans, our plight would still be buried."
Others attributed the low turnout at the protest to commencement exercises that were held simultaneously at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia, which both have large numbers of Caribbean students.
The march yesterday ended a week-long effort here to rally support for the Haitian boat people. The protesting Haitians arrived from Miami, New York and the Washington area. Yesterday, they prepared for the bus rides back home and pondered what, if anything, will come of their efforts.
The Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, director of the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, told the crowd in Lafayette Park that the United States has granted asylum to 800,000 Cubans, 400,000 Indo-Chinese, 200,000 Soviet Jews, and more than 30,000 Nicaraguans over the years -- people he described as Europeans and "light-skinned boat people." All of this, he said, is "fine . . . nice . . . great."
But now that "a few thousand black boat people" want help, he said, the United States backs off and says it is distinguishing between economic and political refugees. "This is injustice," he said. "We are denouncing this in the face of the world."
Their leaders chanted in a staccato rhythm, Hey, Hey, U.S.A.," and the crowd responded, "Stop Supporting Duvalier!" Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, Haiti's dictator who anointed himself that nation's "president-for-life," was angrily denounced.
Speakers said his regime has been marked by beatings and killings of political prisoners.
The Cubans get everything from the federal government, said Sister Pierre Marie Armand of Maimi, who was selling $5 T-shirits in support of the Haitians. "Our people get nothing. This is injustice, discrimination."
Many Haitians have been exiles in the United States for years, the Sister added. Every Hatian would like to go back home, she said. "If we put Duvalier down this morning, we'd all go back this afternoon."
Another speaker at yesterday's rally, Patrick Lemoine, said he had been imprisoned in Haiti for 2 1/2 years. He said he saw more than 20 prisoners die during that time.
Steve Horbitt, an aide to Congressional delegate Walter Fauntroy, said that much support has been generated for the refugees.
"There are many blacks in this area responding to this crisis because they feel that the Haitians are being excluded just because they are black," he said.